Monday, July 19, 2010


So, the cloud is this: After having spent most of the day curled up on the couch with a headache, I finally managed to stumble out into the midst of a disgustingly hot, humid, government-heat-advisory day with the goal of going to Starbucks, obtaining caffeine (the lack of which may have led to the headache in the first place) and sugar and overpriced "micronutrient water," and then sitting down and getting some work done. (As abysmal a place as Starbucks is to get work done in - sorry about that preposition - it is a lot easier for me to convince myself to go there than to the library.) However, after I ordered my caffeine and sugar AND actually opened the dumb water and drank out of it, the clerk informed me that my debit card had been declined. Now, I knew that we had very little money in our bank account, but I did not realize that we had so little money that I could not obtain an overpriced snack. Indeed, a quick call to the bank informed me that we had precisely $0.78. On top of which, while I was on the phone with the bank, I at first pushed the wrong button, so instead of giving me my current balance, the automated system started reeling off check numbers and amounts with dizzying speed, but just slowly enough for me to hear that I have apparently bounced a check for $595, which is utterly mysterious because I cannot currently recall having written a check of that amount, and also utterly panic-inducing because (obviously) I do not currently have the money to pay that amount to whomever I had meant to pay it. In the meantime, back to the available balance/Starbuck issue, I had to tell the clerk to please put my things aside for me, and I would be right back with the money to pay for them. And then, boiling in embarrassment and the sun, I had to walk all the way home, get the $50 check that I (luckily) had just received in the mail on Saturday, walk to the bank, deposit the check, and then return to Starbucks to bail out my snack. When I got back to Starbucks, half an hour had passed, and the shift had changed, so I had to explain to the new clerk what had happened, and also live with the knowledge that the previous clerk probably left thinking that I had skipped out on my snack bill. By the time all this was over, I had lost about 45 minutes of the time that I had originally set aside for getting work done, and I was hot, sweaty, frustrated, in a state of souped-up financial panic, and aching with an unpleasant sense of humility, or maybe humiliation.

And the silver lining is this: When I got back to Starbucks, the new clerk inexplicably undercharged me for my snacks by half. BY HALF. Did she misunderstand and think I had already paid for part of it? Was she just not paying attention? I don't know and I don't care. I am confident that I earned the discount because I bore my trials with relative patience, without crying or screaming in frustration even once, and because I had the guts to actually return to Starbucks in the first place, when a younger, less stout-hearted me would have simply not gone back and then avoided the place for at least a full calendar year.

And silver lining Part II: After finally obtaining snacks and sitting down - and I got a whole table to myself when most of the other tables were being shared! - I discovered that there was a red wig lying under my table. This is truly, truly exciting, because now I can imagine that something very, very dramatic and very, very important was going on SOMEWHERE IN THIS VERY NEIGHBORHOOD, ON THIS VERY DAY. Like there was a spy or a detective or just a regular woman caught in some sort of dramatic and important and maybe even heartbreaking situation, and she was in disguise and maybe being followed and she had to quickly ditch her disguise or change into a new one, and she did it here at the Starbucks on 145th and Bradhurst, and now I am sitting in the EXACT PLACE where this very dramatic important thing happened. And it doesn't even matter that you and I both know that this wig was probably just dropped by a kid on the way home from summer drama camp, maybe at the Harlem School of the Arts just down the street; just the the very thought, the slimmest imagining that it might be something different altogether makes me feel brighter and energized and romantic again. We live in a magical world where there are wigs under tables, and the humiliation and the heat and the bank account don't even matter. They don't. They really, really don't.